William Shakespeare (cricketer)

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This article is about the cricketer. For the poet and playwright of Elizabethan England, see William Shakespeare.
William H. N. Shakespeare
Personal information
Full name William Harold Nelson Shakespeare
Born (1893-08-24)24 August 1893
Worcester, England
Died 10 July 1976(1976-07-10) (aged 82)
Whittington, Worcestershire, England
Batting style Right-handed
Career statistics
Competition FC
Matches 26
Runs scored 789
Batting average 19.72
100s/50s 0/4
Top score 67*
Balls bowled 5
Wickets 0
Bowling average -
5 wickets in innings 0
10 wickets in match 0
Best bowling -
Catches/stumpings 11/0
Source: CricketArchive, 19 May 2009

Wing Commander William Harold Nelson Shakespeare OBE MC AFC (24 August 1893 – 10 July 1976) was an English cricketer, and pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and its successor the Royal Air Force.

As a pilot[edit]

As a pilot, in July 1918 Shakespeare won the Military Cross. His medal was awarded after he successfully carried out two patrols, one in "very bad weather" and one under intense fire. The citation praised him as "a gallant and determined pilot".[1] A few months later, he gained the Air Force Cross.[2]

T./Capt. William Harold Nelson Shakespeare,R.F.C. was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He carried out a most successful contact patrol in very bad weather at a height of 400 feet and brought back very valuable information. Later, he carried out another successful contact patrol at a low altitude, his machine being subjected to intense rifle and machine-gun fire. He is a gallant and determined pilot and has set a fine example to his squadron.

As a cricketer[edit]

Shakespeare played 26 first-class matches for Worcestershire between 1919 and 1931. He made his first-class debut in August 1919 against Warwickshire; this was a friendly match as Worcestershire did not enter the County Championship that season. Opening the batting with Alfred Cliff he had a fine match, scoring 62 in the first innings and 67 not out (which was to remain his career best) in the second.[3][4] He played one further match that year and three in 1920 but could not replicate his initial form, with a top score of only 11 in six innings.[5]

In 1924, Shakespeare finally returned to first-class cricket, scoring 62* against Glamorgan,[6] and this time — although he never made any really big scores — he contributed useful thirties and forties fairly often. From 1926 onwards, however, his powers left him and he passed 20 only once in his last 14 innings. His first-class career really ended in 1928, but he did make one final appearance three years later.[5]

Although he never played at such a high level again, Shakespeare did appear for Worcestershire's second XI in the Minor Counties Championship as late as July 1949, when he was nearly 56.[7] He also umpired one first-class game, that between Worcestershire and Combined Services at New Road in May 1950.[8]

Other activities[edit]

After the First World War, he became one of the pioneers of military and civil transport aviation. While still serving in the RAF his services were employed by Handley Page to promote their new commercial passenger service in the Handley Page 0.400 series, which after the end of the First World War, had been converted from a bomber to a passenger aircraft. He was the captain of the first pan European flight from London to Athens, a flight which took place to promote Handley Page and prove the capability of the aircraft. While in Athens, he met and flew with the King of Greece who was also a keen aviator.

In later life, Shakespeare became president of RAFA as well as President of Worcestershire County Cricket Club.[9] He was instrumental in the organising of the Victory test matches versus Australia.

His Great Grandson, Flt Lt Keith William Brooke (Will) followed in Wg Cdr W.H.N.Shakespeare's footsteps and graduated RAF Officer training at Royal Air Force Cranwell on 5 November 2009.[10] Throughout the graduation ceremony, Flt Lt Brooke carried Wg Cdr Shakespeares Royal Flying Corps ceremonial sword, which was presented to him in 1914. He attended Branston School and Community College before joining the RAF in March 1997 as an Assistant Air Traffic Controller and became an Air Traffic Control Officer when he was promoted to Sergeant in 2003, serving at various UK units and overseas, including operations in Iraq, Turkey, Oman, Bahrain and Afghanistan, where he was awarded the US Joint Service Commendation Medal and continues his service in the Royal Air Force as a Flight Operations Officer, currently serving at RAF Odiham with the Chinook Helicopter Force.